Thursday, August 31, 2006

JonBenet Insomnia

I had one of those restless nights, sleeping in a different place, and not quite used to my surroundings. The insomnia hit its peak on early Friday morning at the dreaded hour of 5am. I had been in Boulder less than four hours after a delayed flight from Las Vegas to Denver. Our pilot lied to the passengers about nine or ten times, insisting that the delay would only be ten more minutes. That added up to a ninety-five minute delay on the tarmac at McCarran airport as I sat quietly listening to a bootleg of Crack Sabbath that JW gave me.

I knew that I had three nights of consecutive concerts ahead of me and needed rest. The previous weekend I helped Grubby move a ton of boxes and other heavy items as we cleaned out the apartment in Henderson. When Grubby left, I was in an empty apartment (minus my mattress, bags, and laptop) and spent the rest of that week in different casinos playing cards and gambling. I went on a nice run and left Las Vegas as a winner after a down swing. I should have been sleeping and recovering from two intense months of work and constant pressure to meet deadlines. Both my body and my mind needed relaxation and I did neither. Instead I fucked around and I found myself in Boulder at 5am unable to sleep.

The Joker woke up around 8am on Friday for work. I was up and joined him for breakfast at a trendy eatery down the street called The Egg and I. It specialized in eggs. Our waitress had a shit eating grin on her face. She looked like she doubled her dose of happy pills because she couldn't stop smiling. But it wasn't a cheery smile. It was somewhat scary, definitely medicated and forced. She talked me into the daily special... a croissant sandwich with two scrambled eggs with bacon, ham, and sausage lathered in melted cheddar cheese. The sandwich also came with breakfast potatoes that were very good.

After breakfast, the Joker headed to work while I tried to sleep. He would come back to the house at 4pm so we could drive up to Fort Collins to see Galactic. I fell out for about two hours before I woke up before noon and decided to get up. I borrowed the Joker's bike and headed downtown to the Pearl Street mall.

Boulder is an interesting mix of left-wingers and some ultra Yuppie types. You can find VW buses with Lexus SUVs all around town. Sure Boulder is known as the number two city in America in marijuana consumption. But it's often considered one of the most fit cities in America. Located outside of Denver, it's nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Moutains and surrounded by a greenbelt that features over 100 miles of hiking and biking trails.

"You don't see too many fat people in Boulder," the Joker once told me.

He was right. Nearly everyone biked, especially in the summer.

I barely got any exercise in Las Vegas and put on the standard 15 pounds that I added after each World Series of Poker from drinking too many beers at dinner break with Otis, living off of fast food like In & Out, and hitting up too many buffets with Grubby.

It felt to be good outdoors again. I avoided the outdoors as much as possible in Nevada. The Colorado summer climate vastly differed from the scorching temperatures of the Las Vegas Valley. I jumped on the bike and tore down the street, almost slipping once. It took me a few second before I felt comfortable riding the bike, especially with my backpack which included my laptop and some smoking utensils.

Boulder has specific areas designated as bike lanes and they exists throughout the entire city. I took one straight downtown, getting lost for a few minutes on the CU campus. School was back in session which meant that I was whizzing by a bevy of hot chicks aged 18 thru 22. I had to stop for a few moments to catch my breath and soak up the talent. Most of the women I saw in Las Vegas were strippers and hookers. It was nice to see those girl-nextdoor types and the adorable Phishy chicks that I so adore. I get older. They stay the same age.

I recall asking Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot what he thought about the crop of freshman chicks.

"Good. Very good," he added.

I found my way to Pearl Street and sat outside on a bench. I ate a delicious scoop of mint chocolate chip Glacier homemade ice cream from a street vendor and did some people watching. It was a lazy Friday afternoon and a couple of tourists mingled with students, street vendors, and drifters and hippie kids begging for change or food.

I fired up my laptop and checked my email. I decided to play some online poker. One guy sat down next to me and saw what I was doing.

"You playing the poker? Like on TV?" he said sliding a little closer.

I nodded.

"Wow, for real money?" he continued.

I nodded again.

"That's pretty cool. I see poker on TV all the time. I think I should learn."

That's when I started asking him a few question about the JonBenet Ramsey case. My goal on that day was to talk to ten different people and try to get a sense of what they thought of the case. For the last ten years, all I got to see, hear, and read came through the media. A few hours before I arrived in Boulder, the local authorities and FBI dropped off John Mark Karr who was the latest suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey killing. The freakazoid was captured in Thailand where he was very close to little children, one of his passions. He got caught up in the media frenzy, some of which already convicted him, while others were reluctant and suspicious. Yeah, the guy looked like a child molester and probably has committed many egregious acts. But he didn't kill JonBenet Ramsey and there were a large percentage of people who still held onto their opinion despite the recent animal dragged into the JonBenet ten-year long three ring circus.

I talked to ten people and they all thought he did not do it. The word on the street was right because a few days later, the DA dropped charges after his DNA did not match the DNA on the scene.

All fingers pointed to the brother, not the lunatic in custody, according to the numerous discussion I had with a group that included two musicians, a couple of students, two homeless/street people, someone claiming to be a performance artist, a jewelry maker, and two massage therapists. I would ask them if they lived in Boulder ten years ago when it happened.

About 2/3 of the locals I talked to were not around in Boulder in 1996, but they all have discussed the story and rumors with people who have been around. Most of them didn't care at all and preferred that the story stay dormant. They all understood what happened and sort of accepted the fact that a wealthy and eccentric family conspired with the police to cover up the murder of their pageant-weathered daughter, which was brutally committed by their own jealous, attention-starved son. That's the type of story that would make for a great Hollywood flick or at least an interesting Law & Order episode.

They authorities found someone desperate for attention that he'd be willing to confess to a crime he never committed, but in the end, science proved otherwise. Karr was shipped to California where he faces other chargers including possession of child pornography.

I biked back to the Joker's house and that ride was a little tougher because it was uphill. I still survived but was a little bit sore. We loaded up Marco for the ride out of town to Fort Collins to see the first of three Galactic shows.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Galactic Sunday Boulder Setlist and Review
Galactic 8.27.06, Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO

Set 1: FEMA, Aint What You Think, Crazyhorse Mongoose, Hangnail, Bongo the Dog, Spiderbite, Yes We Can (with ALO), Black Eye Pea > Trampled Under Foot > Black Eye Pea

Set 2: Dumptruck, Root Down, Tiger Roll > Bounce Baby > Spaceheadz, Blackbird Special, Doomed, Clockstopper, Licorice, Garbage Truck

E: ???, Quiet Please
This show featured special guest Daddy. The Joker, Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot, and myself met up with Daddy and his buddy Larry. They were in town for a fantasy football league draft. We knocked back drinks at a Mexican joint two doors down from the Fox Theatre as we ogled at all the hot CU chicks and random hippie girls wander up 13th Street.

The show was all ages which meant plenty of freshmen and high school kids. Neil Fontent was able to bring along his 19 year old girlfriend to this show. Part of the Fox was sectioned off for the under aged kids. No alcohol was permitted in those areas. When you walk into the lobby of the Fox, there's a bar in the center with two doors on either side. We walked over to the right, which is was reserved for the minors. A bouncer prevented us from going in.

"That's where all the kids are," he said.

"I like highschool girls," I mentioned trying to appeal to his immoral senses.

"And I like little boys," added Daddy which pretty much insured us that he would not let us pass.

ALO opened again and we spent less time listening to them and more time drinking at the numerous bars in the venue. For a small place it has four different bar areas. We called AlCantHang for a dial-a-shot.

The G-men opened up with a raw, quick, and funkified set. The Joker and I heard the heavy FEMA in Fort Collins and we dug their new song. It was fitting to hear it on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Although the majority of that city was destroyed, the unique spirit still lives on especially in the hearts and souls of the members of Galactic who take the spicy flavor of New Orleans music and bring it with them where ever they go sharing it with anyone who wants to listen. The last three nights Galactic took those melodious sounds to Colorado.

Crazyhorse Mongoose is one of my favorite Galactic songs and considering how many times they must have played it over the last decade, each version is ripe with new found energy and enthusiasm. The crowd loved every moment of CM as Larry handed us more beers.

"Sickness," Daddy screamed in my ear trying to talk over the heavy beats from Stanton Moore. "That fucker is not carbon based."

Indeed. I've been saying it for years... Stanton Moore is not human because no person from this planet can play like he does. He's an alien and out of the several hundred (if not almost a thousand) of drummers I've seen play in a live setting... there's no one better around today.

The Joker and I saw some of the setlist before the show taped to the front of the soundboard. We wandered over to chat with the sound guy to confirm some songs from Saturday's show. Due to our high levels of intoxication for all of Saturday, our note taking ability was less than stellar.

Anyway, I knew that Hangnail was on the menu. And it was delicious since it was one of the few songs we only heard once in the three shows we caught. I left Colorado with a new found love for Bongo the Dog and Spiderbite. ALO came out on vocals for Yes We Can, which is a Doobie Brothers cover that they all performed two nights earlier in Fort Collins. It was a high energy version and the highlight of the first set (up until that point). Even the waitresses in the crowd were dancing around for that song.

The boys closed the set with a Black Eye Pea > Trampled Under Foot > Black Eye Pea sandwich. We were lucky to see it in Fort Collins and the boys busted it back out. It was actually a better version, which I didn't think was possible.

During setbreak we ran outside and hotboxed Marco. We waited outside for a few minutes as two wookies sat on the curb. One played mandolin and the other acoustic guitar as they stumbled through a version of the Grateful Dead's Uncle John's Band.

"Totally cliche," joked the Joker.

Daddy wanted cigarettes and the Joker pointed out the mini-mart across the street. Five minutes later, Daddy stumbled out drunker than an priest at an Irish wedding reception as he tried his best efforts to walk and unwrap his American Spirits in the same motion. He was too drunk for both. He put the pack away and started slowly walking back towards us in front of the Fox. There were two instances when I didn't think he was going to make it. He teetered too much to his left one time and lost his balance. Remarkably, he corrected his equilibrium and made it safely.

"Tell Change100 I want to fuck her sister in the armpit," he blurted out as he took a drag off his cigarette.

I headed to the bar for another shot of SoCo. No one else wanted one so I ordered solo. Larry decided that it was improper for a man to do a shot alone, so he told the bartender that he wanted one. We threw them down and went inside.

We had more space to dance for the second set and found ourselves just in front of the soundboard, which at the Fox is the back of the venue. And you know what? The worst spot in the house is still better than being in 75% of a place like Irving Plaza in NYC.

Dump Truck and Root Down to open got the crowd back to a dancing frenzy. My favorite part was when they busted out Doomed. The Stanton Moore tune Licorice was something we heard all three nights.

Quiet Please was a stellar way to end a three show run. I lost faith in Galactic over the years, which was tough for me considering I've seen them more times than the Grateful Dead and Widespread Panic. The only band I've seen more was Phish.

The three Colorado shows restored my lack of faith. The boys brought New Orleans to your doorstep like they used to back in the era where I feel they peaked out... 1999 and 2000. Since then, they had gone through several changes, different singers, various directions, and had to deal with the Katrina aftermath. One year after that vicious hurricane destroyed their city, the boys got their groove back.

I take a huge risk traveling long distances to see a band play. You never know what you will get and that's part of the allure of the trips. I invested money and time into the Colorado shows and it felt good to get my money's worth. I'm excited to see a few more shows before the year ends.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Boulder Photo Dump

I took these in Boulder over the last few days. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged view.

Poster on Pearl Street

Bobby Mac and Jeff from Galactic

Calzone at PJ's

Boulder Creek


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Galactic 8.26.06 Setlist and Mini Review: Fox Theatre in Boulder

The first and only time I visited the Fox Theatre in Boulder was to see Galactic play in March of 2000. Angela and some of her friends from Texas were on Spring Break and we all hit the leg of Galactic's Colorado tour covering six shows in Denver, Aspen, Vail, and Boulder. I didn't recall much about the Fox. I confused it with the Fillmore in Denver. A stomach full of mushrooms will do that for you.

Six years later I found myself seeing Galactic back at the Fox, which is one of the nicer places I've seen a show due to the intimate space.

We went to the Saturday show with Colby and Smrz, friends of the Joker, who went to school at Tulane. They know Galactic well and have been seeing them as long as I have (circa 1998). They were excited to see the opening band Papa Grows Funk, also a New Orleans fixture. The knew how to party New Orleans style. Smrz is a trip. He's a quote machine.

"My name is Czech," he explained. "It means 'tree.' I tell everyone that my name means 'God-like'..."

He also told us the two rules of partying in New Orleans; "Number one: bring your drugs. And number two: bring your sunglasses because you are going to be up partying all night and by the time you go home, the sun will be coming up."

Colby told me that she read the Tao of Pauly and I inspired her to get a Texas Toaster sandwich from Sonic. Sweet. Those things are addictive.

The Joker and I drank on Pearl Street on Saturday afternoon. I played some online poker on the patio of the Pearl Street Pub as I drank pints of Harp. We wagered on the horse race with the bartender. The Traveler's Stakes from Saratoga was going on and we entered a blind pool. The Joker picked a card out of seven. He got the 4 of diamonds, which meant that we had the #4 horse.... High Cotton. He was the third favorite on the board at 6-1 behind Bernardini who was an astounding 1-1. We started out fast and was in second for the first half of the race until the other horse blew past us. We lost.

We got to the Fox and grabbed a drink at one of the many bars in the tiny venue. Right next to the bar in the lobby area was the merchandise table for Galactic. The Joker pointed out a Galactic sticker that said, "Make Levees. Not War."

The merchandise guy printed up the setlist for the Saturday show. We saw the second set come hot off the printer. We knew that they'd be playing Immigrant Song, 2 Dots, and Shibuya.

Papa Grows Funk opened up and I've seen them at least six or seven times before in various places in Texas, New Orleans, and even in NYC. Papa Grows Funk is an odd mix. A fat guy plays keys. A brother is on drums. There's a hippie guy on sax and the guitar player is like a 50 year old Japanese hippie. Bobby Mac from Galactic sat in on bass for their entire set. Ben came out for a tune as well. Their highlight was a funkified version of the Beatles' Come Together. At one point the sax player picked up cool points with me when he put down his sax and played the cowbell for an entire song.

The G-men took the stage around 10:15pm. They played a setlist very similar to the night before in Fort Collins. It ended up not mattering any bit. They still smoked the hell out of the joint and played even better than on Friday.

Here's an incomplete setlist:
Galactic 8.26.06 Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO

Set 1: Doublewide, Go Go, ?, Church, Spiderbite, The Moil, Little Miss Lover, Bongo Joe > Kashmir

Set 2: Shibuya, Blacktalk (with Jason & John from PGF), Charlie Dozen (with Jason), Forbidden Horn, Immigrant Song, Bootlegger, Metermaid > Whole Lotta Love > Metermaid, 2 Dots, Baker's Dozen

Encore: Licorice (Stanton tune), Manic Depression
The first set started out hot and grew more intense as the night progressed. They first few songs reminded by old school Galactic shows from 1999. The Fox was sold out. The crowd was a little more rowdier than the Fort Collins show. We were close about ten or twelve people back from the front of the stage. I had the perfect view of Stanton all night.

The highlight of the first set was Bongo Joe > Kashmir. As the Joker said, we could both see Kashmir every night. It's such a powerful tune and the boys jammed out a harder and better version than the night before. I didn't think it was possible. But they pulled it off.

I wasn't too wasted the entire show. I was never sober but never out of control, so everything felt good. The setlist found us outside smoking up in Marco which the Joker parked a few steps from the front of the Fox. He found the primo spot once again.

Second set was all Stanton in a high-power, bong rattling orgy of percussion. Shibuya got the entire crowd jumping around and dancing. Jason from Papa Grows Funk joined the band for Charlie Dozen. When we heard Galactic soundchecking Immigrant Song in Fort Collins, we figured it would pop up somewhere over the three show run. Of course we knew it was coming and still got blown away by the power of Ben's sax.

They also teased a little of Whole Lotta Love in the middle of Metermaid. Baker's Dozen to close the second set rocked.

I posted a few clips from the Saturday Fox Theatre show on You Tube:
Kashmir (8.26.06)
Shibuya (8.26.06)
Immigrant Song, Whole Lotta Love > Meter Maid, Manic Depression (8.26.06)
The Joker's Galactic Video (8.26.06)
Two down. One more show to go. Saturday's show was 21 and over only. Sunday is an all ages show which means that our buddy Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot can bring his 19 year-old girlfriend and her friends.
8.26.06 Galactic Boulder Videos

I took a couple of videos of Galactic from their Fox Theatre show in Boulder. Both clips are around 3 minutes each.
Kashmir (8.26.06)
Shibuya (8.26.06)
Immigrant Song, Whole Lotta Love > Meter Maid, Manic Depression (8.26.06)
The Joker's Galactic Video (8.26.06)
The cover of led Zeppelin's Kashmir was pure sickness. Got to see it back-to-back nights. The Joker said he could see it every night.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Galactic Fort Collins Mini Review and Setlist

We stopped off at a head shop on Pearl Street in Boulder.

"Back to school sale," mentioned the Joker.

The basement store was filled with CU students returning from summer break and looking to pick up glass bowls, pipes, and bongs. I spotted a nice pipe for the Joker that had a frog on it.

The drive to Fort Collins was short, but we got lost once we got into town. We eventually found College Avenue where the Aggie Theatre is located. I've been to Fort Collins a couple of times. It's a college town and the home of Colorado State University. Aside from that it's just the mid-way point between Denver and Cheyenne. During my first trip to Fort Collins in 1998, I caught the Ominous Seapods at the Aggie. I drove down from Laramie, Wyoming in a snowstorm just to catch the Pods show.

We arrived early and parked in the lot behind the theatre. The Joker snagged a spot just behind Galactic's tour bus. We could hear the band on stage doing a soundcheck. They busted into Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song and that would be a teaser for what to expect.

We wandered down College Avenue and were confronted with the alluring sounds of bag pipes. The local community heard we were coming and rolled out the Fort Collins Pipe Band for us as they played in front of an Irish pub. We ended up eating and drinking at the Crown Pub across the street. We hit up a local college saloon, the Drunken Monkey which featured buckets of Coronas for $5. The waitresses were all young hotties wearing jean skirts, tight white wife-beater t-shirts and cowboy hats. The also did hoola hoop tricks. I ordered a SoCo and called AlCantHang for a dial-a-shot.

We did some people watching and aside from a bevy of young and pretty coeds, there were plenty of freaks out, which surprised the Joker. He expects weirdness in Boulder and to be contained within said city limits. There were numerous homeless people and drifters coming over asking for spare change, long with the odd sort of hippie kids trying to scratch enough money together for a $25 ticket to see Galactic.

One spun out wookie chick stopped us, "Can you spare a few bucks? I only need $3 more to buy a ticket."

I pulled out my poker bankroll and pushed aside a few hundreds as her eyes lit up. I found a wrinkly $1 bill and handed it to her.

"Now you are only $2 short."

I fucked up. I could have gotten her to do some sort of prop bet for the cash. I wanted to say, "Hey if you blow the Joker in the parking lot and let me watch and jack off, I'll give you $3. I'll give you $5 if you let me videotape it."

Another sketched out wookie told us he was $10 short for a ticket.

"That's OK," he assured us, "I have my crystals."

He had a box of crystals that he was hoping to trade. On various tours, wookies use items like rocks and crystals to barter for tickets, foods, and drugs.

The Aggie is a small place which has three levels separated by a few steps. We walked into the ALO set about ten minutes in. They were mellow and reminded me of a funky version of The Band.

"They had funky beats but none of the guitar or keyboards were very hard. They had grooves but the harmonies were light and fluffy," explained the Joker. "It was clean funk."

Two songs that stood out were Plastic Bubble and Ophelia, which is a cover song originally performed by The Band. The crowd was into ALO and were dancing around.

During the break we headed out to the parking to smoke up and we saw ALO loading up their van. A SUV pulled up blocking the exit. Out walked an older guy with a parrot on his shoulder. He left his dog in the car, which still had the keys in the ignition. A 10,000 Maniacs song blasted as the guy with the parrot disappeared and returned five minutes later. We assumed that he owned the Aggie Theatre.
8.25.06 Galactic, Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins, CO

Set 1: FEMA, Crazyhorse Mongoose, Spiderbite, Black Bird Special, Centhead, The Moil, Licorice (Stanton Moore tune), Yes We Can (with ALO), Bongo Joe > Kashmir

Set 2: Shibuya, Backtalk, Tiger Roll > Bounce Baby > Space Headz, Bongo the Dog, Black Eye Pea > Trampled Under Foot > Black Eye Pea, Metermaid > 2 Dots, Garbage Truck

Encore: Manic Depression

ALO opened
Galactic took the stage around 10:30 and they opened up with a new tune called FEMA. The guys in Galactic were on the road when Hurricane Katrina hit. They were safe but they lost all their houses, practice space, and many of their instruments. They stayed on the road and kept playing adding new tour dates because they didn't have a home to go to.

Galactic was in flux before the Hurricane hit. The Houseman left the band and they were without a lead singer and were just an instrumental band. Although I was critical of the Houseman over the years, his departure sent the band into a spin. They were kinda lost without him and the formula they were used to. They'd open up and play four songs, then they Houseman would come out for four, then they'd close the set with a couple more tunes. Repeat for Set 2. Without the Houseman, they focus was on them the entire time. Sure they brought out guests from time to time on vocals, but the last 1.5 years of Galactic was a transitional phase. With the Hurricane hitting New Orleans, they were forced to stay out on the road and work out new material. That time away from home did they good. And a song like FEMA galvanized the headspace where the band is at right now.

Crazyhorse Mongoose is a crowd pleaser off of one of their earliest albums. The guys figured out the acoustics of the Aggie and adjusted by the middle of CM. The sound was great and you could actually hear the Jeff Raines on guitar, who sometimes gets drowned out by Stanton's thunderous drum playing, Bobby Mac's deep bass, Ben's sax, or Vogel's paino/keys action.

Spiderbite was a tune I liked. They got down in The Moil before they did a Stanton Moore tune called Licorice. Then the guys from ALO came out on stage to sign a Doobie Brothers cover Yes I Can. That got the crowd jumping. The last two songs were epic and represented some of the best playing I've seen Galactic break out in over two years. Bongo Joe > Kashmir kicked my ass. The Joker and I heard the soundcheck and knew Zeppelin was coming. Their version of Kashmir is one of the best cover version I've heard.

We ran outside for setbreak and came back inside. The crowd thinned a bit and there was more room to dance and hang out. One drunk guy kept pestering the Joker's friends, Andy and Debbie. He'd leave and come back and he continued his annoying gibberish.

The boys opened up with Shibuya and it was all Stanton Moore. The reason I fly and travel long distances to see Galactic is because of Stanton Moore. He's the best drummer on the planet and he's worth 1.5 members of Phish. Stanton is like Fish plus half of Trey.

Tiger Roll > Bounce Baby > Space Headz was a nice little sandwich of tunes before Black Eye Pea which they managed to squeeze Trampled Under Foot before heading back into Black Eye Pea. The boys were 2 for 2 with Zeppelin covers. The crowd loved every second of it. That was the highlight of set 2.

They closed the set strong with a mellow Metermaid segued into 2 Dots. They closed with Garbage Truck and as they left the stage I was bummed out. I wanted to hear more. They were playing so tight that I'd stay up until dawn to see them.

The encore was a rocking Jimi Hendrix' Manic Depression.

"Galactic ditched the Houseman for classic rock tunes," suggested the Joker.

That seems to be the direction that they've taken, adding a few covers to the spicy New Orleans mix that they've been bringing for almost a decade.

The Fort Collins show reminded me of the Galactic shows I saw in 1999 and 2000 when they were a collection of tightly bundled frenetic energy.

One down, three more to go.

We headed to an after-show party at a warehouse in Boulder. The Code Talkers were playing and they were kicking ass in a small space that's usually used as a recording studio. It cost us $10 to get in which meant free music and all you can drink beer. Like a typical Boulder party, dogs freely roamed the party brushing past you every few seconds.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Red Rock Canyon Photo Gallery

Bruce is in Las Vegas and he's not a gambler. He made a list of things to do and #1 on that particular list was "visit Red Rock Canyon." I've made the drive up there a couple of times and it's amazing. Plus it's less than a ten minute drive from Red Rock Casino. I took him up there so we can take some random photos as we blasted the Grateful Dead and burned a few down.

Here's 18 of my favorites. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged view.

The red rocks

Bus lane

The PT

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Grubby Leaveth

Grubby gave away most of his furniture to a Mexican family in the building unit next door. Grubby started throwing out all of his things on Monday morning because he couldn't find anyone to buy them on Craigslist. He set out a bunch of stuff near the dumpster. Five minutes later, an old lady appeared and took the dumbbells. One of the maintenance guys drove by on a golf cart and snagged the exercise bike. A young couple pulled up in a white SUV and took the bookshelf. And a woman and her daughter jumped for joy when they found Grubby's dishes, pots, pans, and silverware sitting in two banker's boxes.

The lady moved her from Mexico with her husband, her brother and her three kids. Grubby asked them if they wanted the couch... for free. All they had to do was take it off his hands. They showed up ten minutes later and took the couch and everything else Grubby was ready to throw out. The weird thing is that they recently moved in and had next to no furniture. Within minutes they had more than 50% of Grubby's furnishings. In a strange twisted way, a Mexican family moved into Grubby's apartment. I wonder what they're going to do with the orange plastic bong and all the casino shampoo?

Grubby left Las Vegas for good on Monday as every casino exec in the Las Vegas Valley shed a tear for the loss of one of their most degenerate and dedicated gamblers. During his two year stint in Las Vegas, from poker to slots to blackjack to buffets and strip clubs, Grubby became a Las Vegas legend as I was fortunate to cross paths and share along in the hijinks. His waking life represented a dreamlike and surreal atmosphere as so many of his readers vicariously lived through his posts that were well written and featured literary moments replicating the winner's high to magnifying the testicle shrinking horrifying losses.

I'm gonna miss him and I'm sad to leave this apartment. Last summer I couldn't wait to get the hell out of my place at the Redneck Riviera. This instance I enjoyed being close enough to the action that I won't miss it if I chose... and far enough away from everything that I forget I'm in Las Vegas.

* * * * *

I spent almost two hours reading email on Tuesday. Most of that was deleting email and answering email. The fuckers keep multiplying and draining my day. If I don't spend an hour a day on email, then it cloggs up for weeks and weeks. I was about a month behind thanks to the WSOP and that's when the volume of email increased 100x. I'm supposed to be relaxing but a lot of my energies have been devoted to cleaning all that crap up. I've spent a good 10 hours in the last week devoted to the email problem.

I want my life back and all the email is killing me. I like hearing from friends and I need email to do plenty of business stuff. But at somepoint I have to figure out how to better manage my time in email mode. I'm a slave to my inbox. I'm gonna spend less time on email and stick to that promise to myself.

I've been reading a poker book that a guy I know wrote. It's been my bathroom book and I read a chapter each morning on the shitter. I have a Philip K. Dick book waiting for me to read once I get home to NYC. Aside from that, I'm gonna reacquaint myself with the characters I created almost four years ago in Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. I'm going to read it at least five times when I'm in LA before I return home to NYC after Labor Day. If I can read it ten times before I start a new draft, I'm positive that will be enough to jolt my memory back on track. I'm 19 days away from starting the new draft and I can't wait to write fiction again.

My buddy Bruce is in town from NYC. I took him to the Tilted Kilt for dinner last night then showed him around the Bellagio especially the Hooker Bar. I drove up and down the Strip crowded with tourists and decided that Las Vegas reminds me a suburban mall with slot machines.

I've been playing a lot of poker the last few days trying to get a couple of decent hours in at the tables before I hit the road. One old guy picked a fight with me and I befriended a tweaker the other night. Just the random freaks you meet at the poker table.

Recent Writing Music...
1. Ben Harper
2. Maceo Parker
3. Soulive
4. Sugarman Three
5. My Morning Jacket

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Grubby's Last Weekend in Vegas

In the last five days, I've been on a serious gambling binge that's spilled all over several Las Vegas casinos... betting on baseball, live poker, online poker, Pai Gow poker, video poker, craps, prop betting, slot machines, and even Keno. I call this the Grubby Effect.

Grubby left Las Vegas about a month ago and moved to Chicago for a new job. He came back this weekend in order to clean out the apartment in Henderson. He arrived late Friday night and we spent most of Saturday boxing up books. He rented a storage space that includes a truck rental with the storage unit inside the back of the truck. All you had to do was fill the space and drive it back to the storage facility. Grubby filled fifty banker's boxes with books, scripts, files, and magazines. We walked them down one flight of stairs and then another 50 yards to where the truck was parked illegally in a handicapped zone. That was a strenuous workout for someone like me who's done nothing but sit on my ass for seven weeks straight.

The truck was due back at 8am and Grubby left the apartment around 7:30. When I woke up around noon, he was nowhere to be found. When I got in touch with him at 1pm he was playing slots at Silverton. He had been at various casinos since 9am. He assured me that he was going home ASAP to get some sleep before we were supposed to play in a poker tournament at the Sahara at 7pm. I headed up to Summerlin to play poker at Red Rock and stopped by Friedman's apartment where we watched What the "Bleep" Do We Know?! Down the Rabbit Hole, which is a mind bending documentary on links between Quantum physics and spirituality in our everyday lives.

Around 5:30pm, I called Grubby to find out what his plans were.

"I'm so addicted. I can't stop," he said on the phone when I woke him up after only an hour of sleep.

He played from 9am to 4pm admitting that he lost all the money at the slot machines in his wallet plus the cash he earned from selling his couch. Mr. Cashman slots was his demise.

In honor of Grubby's last night in Las Vegas, a bunch of us played in the 7pm Sahara poker tournament. Friedman, Grubby's friend Carla, Miami Don and Carmen all played. First place paid out an astounding $3,000. The sleep deprived Grubby outlasted all of us as he went deep taking 13th out of 151 but he still missed the money by three spots.

Although I was busted out early, I got to watch the end of the Yankees-Red Sox game capped by a late rally by the Yanks who trailed by two runs in the 8th inning. The game went into extra innings tied at 5-5 when Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada drilled home runs to break the game open at 8-5. Mo Rivera pitched two scoreless innings en route to a the four Yankees victory over the Sox in three days. On Monday afternoon (a couple of hours from now for me on the Left Coast), the Yanks go for a rare five game sweep. Lucky for me I watched three of the four games with most of the viewing inside a casino.

Around Midnight, Grubby and I decided to grab a bite to eat at Green Valley Ranch. Since we both drove to Sahara, we bet $1 on who would get to GVR first from the Strip. He won by six minutes. In my defense, I took two smoke breaks along the way.

I ate a chicken quesadilla and a slice of chocolate creame pie. On our way out, I donked off $10 at a Mr. Cashman machine while Grubby ran through $20 faster than a crack whore minutes after she gets her welfare check. I left to go back to the apartment to write. Grubby appeared about an hour later. I didn't have to ask because I knew he played some more slots before he made his way home.

We have to throw out a ton of shit before he heads back to Chicago on Monday afternoon. He also could not find a buyer for his couch and TV.

At 3am, I consolidated two future flights into one. I originally booked a return flight from Denver to Las Vegas next Monday and booked a flight from Las Vegas to LA on Tuesday. Why have two flights spread out over two days when I can have one? With the new glitches in airport security and McCarran airport being one of the worst in the world for security wait time, I bought a flight from Denver direct to LA on Monday. That gives me an extra day in Hollyweird but I fly into dreaded LAX instead of my new favorite airport Long Beach.

I called up Frontier to change my flight to LA instead of Las Vegas. They said it would cost me $100 for a change fee plus the extra cost of the flight ... for a total of $351. I told the lady on the phone that they must be freebasing over at Frontier HQ. I said, "No thanks."

I hopped on Expedia and found a $119 direct flight to LAX and bought that one. I canceled my Vegas to LA flight and got a $45 credit on Jet Blue for a future flight. I also have a $40 credit coming on a Frontier flight so my new flight from Denver to LA only cost me $25. I get an extra day of sunshine. Sweet.

It's now 4:20am. Grubby is still filling up boxes and I'm stuck $50 playing Pot Limit Omaha online against a bunch of Europeans.

Recent Writing Music...
1. Crack Sabbath
2. Brian Jonestown Massacre
3. Velvet Underground
4. Shuggie Otis
5. Galactic

Sunday, August 20, 2006

2006 WSOP Black and White Photos

I also posted this over at my poker blog. I took all of these at the Rio's Amazon Ballroom on the tournament floor of the WSOP. All of these have been posted before, but this is the first time I pulled together my favorite B&Ws in one photo dump. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged view.

DoubleAs flips me the bird

Evil Otis

The dealers

Johnny Chan


CK Hua and Tanya

WSOP Shot of the Day (7.20.06)



Snake from Wicked Chops Poker

The floor


Mad Genius

TJ daydreaming about "boxcars"

Minneapolis Jim Meehan

Jason in his bathrobe

Amarillo Slim

Birds on the rail

The action unfolds

Don't forget to stop by and check out Flipchip's 2006 WSOP Photos.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Grubby Time

I thought I was dreaming when I heard voices. It ended up being a married couple from Iowa milling around in the apartment. They were there buying Grubby's bed. I was super exhausted after I fell asleep just three hours earlier around sunrise. I knew they were coming and hoped to sleep through it. No such luck.

Grubby realized after he sold his bed on Craigs List that he had no place to sleep. If the couch sold later today, he's forced to sleep on the floor until he goes back to Chicago on Monday.

Grubby arrived in Las Vegas around Midnight on Friday. He got stuck with an SUV for his rental because they ran out of cars. He had the choice of a minivan and SUV. Since he's moving a lot of shit, the SUV seemed like the natural choice.

My Friday afternoon and evening included a fun and lazy day hanging out with a couple of locals that I've befriended, Carmen and Don, who moved here from South Florida a few months ago. After a long work stint covering the WSOP, I was ready to hang out and have a good time without any looming deadlines.

Carmen had been working like 9 out of the last 10 days and she wanted to let loose. I was at Red Rock casino playing poker when they showed up. We headed to the bar at the sports book so I could watch the Yankees-Red Sox back end of the doubleheader. I played a little video poker with Don and drank free beers before we headed to the craps table. Carmen was showing off her cleavage to the throwers on our end who were on a roll. That seemed to work and at the same time, it tilted the floor guys and pit poss. By the end of the session, they all knew Carmen's name.

They were nice enough to buy me dinner at T-Bones a swanky steakhouse. The night before I ate a filent mignon at Palm for the Poker Prof's birthday. Back-to-back kick ass meals. That sure beats the crappy cheeseburgers in the food court at the Rio, which I lived on for two weeks.

After Grubby got home, we went to Balboa's Pizza at Green Valley Ranch around 2am. I had eaten only a couple of hours before, but it's our tradition. Usually when I fly into town, Grubby picks me up at the airport and we go straight to Balboa's where he catches me up on his latest gambling and strippers exploits. This time, I had all the gambling nuggets and he told me about the strip clubs he hit up in Kansas and Iowa during his business trip last week. I ordered dessert... an apple fritter ice cream combo.

Since the WSOP ended, I've been losing at the non-poker tables (Pai Gow, craps, and sports betting) and I've been losing playing online poker. I've been winning at the live poker tables which means I'm just breaking even.

I have less than one more week in Las Vegas to make some money playing cards. Hopefully Grubby can most of his stuff done today so we can gamble tonight and all day Sunday.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes on a Plane and Pai Gow

I saw a midnight viewing of Snakes on a Plane with Change100 at Sunset Station. The audience was half crocked, a little bit rowdy, and the rest were tweakers.

Here's a quick synopsis. There were snakes on a plane. The snakes on a plane killed a lot of passengers. Samuel L. Jackson killed a lot of snakes on the plane. The snakes bit a chick's nipple and a guy's junk. The token black guy from SNL saves the day. There's a Thai hooker joke too. People gave Samuel L. Jackson a standing ovation when he said his catch phrase, "I'm tired of these motherfuckin' snakes on this motherfuckin' plane."

Go see it for yourselves. And get either very drunk or super baked before you go. It's everything what's great and horrible about Hollyweird wraped inside of an 1 hr 40 min film. And don't forget to smoke a lot of weed before you go.

The flick cost me $83 to see. I had about an hour to kill before the movie start time, so I played about 45 minutes of Pai Gow. I got kicked in the junk and at one point I ran into A-Joker as the dealer's low hand and J-10-9-8-7 as the dealer's high hand. By the end of the session, I was playing two hands at once channeling my inner Otis while drinking SoCo.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

One More Week in Hell

"Oh my God. You're driving a Honda. We're living together in a condo in a gated community in the suburbs. And we're going to eat at Applebee's," screamed Change100. "Please kill me."

Change100 said that about three weeks ago when I still had the sleek Honda. Since then, the rental expired and I sent it back to the rental agency and picked up a new rental. I got stuck with a PT Cruiser. It could have been worse... the other choices were a minivan with bad breaks and a minvan with good breaks. The one positive aspect about the Cruiser is that it has an AUX slot so I can plug my iPod in there. The bad aspects of the Cruiser is everything else. After all it's a PT Cruiser which gets crappy gas mileage and I look like a schmuck driving around in it. I have it for one more week, when my rental expires the day I leave Las Vegas for a few days in Colorado followed by a week in Hollyweird.

Change100 found ourselves living those bleak suburban lives we dreaded. Even the mailbox has both our last names written on it. She's an LA girl and I miss NYC every waking second. But living in Henderson is a lot more healthier than living down in Las Vegas which is filled with degenerate gamblers, tweakers, rednecks, and gang bangers.

When I agreed to do work for PokerStars, part of my compensation package included a room at Treasure Island which is a 5 minute drive from the Rio where I worked. The commute was amazingly quick and I saved up to 45 minutes a day. But living in a casino gets old and troublesome after four days and I was counting the minutes when I could go back to the apartment. I dread every other suburbs, but the Las Vegas burbs keep me sane.

I'm going to miss the apartment that I had as my home base with Grubby. The apartment is nothing special and we didn't have any cable TV. Sure it's in a gated complex and we have a pool that's populated with UNLV co-eds and strippers. And it's hard to see the difference between the two. The location is nice, up on a ridge where you can see the mountains and the Strip just at the foothill of the posh Seven Hills and Anthem neighborhoods.

We lived across the street from a 24-hour supermarket which I never had that advantage in NYC. There's also a Subway, El Pollo Loco, and Brooklyn Bagels across the street. Everything is within a five minute drive including a Citibank branch which menas no $3-$4 ATM fees. I don't have to spend too much time on the road. Plus the posh Green Valley Ranch is a five minute drive away. That's the casino featured in the reality show American Casino. They have several cool places to eat in their complex along with a movie theatre and a full casino. Yeah, I'm about ten minutes from sitting on my ass ripping bonghits to sitting down at a poker table in a local's casino.

I played poker the last two nights at local's casinos... both Green Valley and Red Rock. I won a little at both and I'm starting to get a groove again playing live in Las Vegas. After covering poker for seven weeks straight, I had very little time to play. And when I did... I was more gambling for enjoyment than trying to win.

All my major deadlines and writing assignments are now over. I've been billing everyone and my client list for the 2006 WSOP is nine. I wrote for nine different places and only a handful had paid me. I sent out invoices and I'll be eagerly awaiting those paychecks. I earned enough in the last two months so I can take the rest of the year off to write and travel. And I've also turned down a few big assignments between now and then. Maybe I'm foolish for walking away from a steady paycheck, but you can't put a price on personal time. I'm sick of writing about poker. It's suffocating. I want to write fiction. I want to be in NYC for the next upcoming months. I want to write everyday for myself. I want to watch NYC sports teams with my brother. I hate driving and I miss the subways. And I miss the food. And the Rooster.

I finally sat down and figured out all my travel plans for the next few weeks and months. I have eight different flights booked for trips from now through Turkey Day. I finally booked a Vegoose flight and a hotel room. I have my plans for the Boathouse Bash finalized as well.

I also had to tweak my schedule for when I go back to NYC. I'm going to Hollyweird for Labor Day weekend. I planned on flying from California to Las Vegas to complete my round trip. I was going to stay in Vegas for a half of a day before I headed back to NYC on the last leg of that original round trip that started when I left for Las Vegas in June. That's two flights and having to deal with extra airport security hassles. I decided to consolidate the two flights into one flight.

Jet Blue is a cool airline. I was able to change everything online. I canceled the Long Beach to Vegas flight and I canceled the Las Vegas to NYC flight inside of three minutes. It only cost me $50 total to do that. They gave me the remainder of the actual cost of the flights in a form of a credit. I used that credit to buy a new ticket.... Long Beach, CA to NYC... which ended up being cheaper than both canceled flights combined. I used the remainder of the credit towards my Vegoose flight which cost less than $200 round trip.

Did that sound confusing? It made sense to me.

Recent Writing Music:
1. Wilco
2. John Coltrane
3. Garcia & Grisman
4. Karl Denson
5. Phish

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Seven Minute Wednesdays

I don't even have a full ten. I ate Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ last night for dinner in the middle of finishing up my last article. I got the Mardi Gras Chicken which comes with garlic mashed potatoes and mac & cheese. The fried chicken is kick ass and comes with an amazing creole sauce filled with baby shrimp, peppers, andouille sausage and other Cajun mind-numbing things.

I finally finished the second draft and I headed out to play poker at Green Valley Ranch. It took me less than ten minutes to leave the apartment and sit down at the poker table. That's the benefit of living five minutes from a casino. I was on a rush and won a decent amount. It had been a while since I had a night like last night at the tables. Even Change100 won and she's in the middle of a rough streak. There's a 24 hour FatBurger and I celebrated my win with a chocolate shake.

Finally got to watch some of the latest Phish DVD Live in Brooklyn. I forgot how hard it was raining that night. First set highlights included The Curtain, 2001, and Maze. Made me miss Phish. Trey looked skinny and way juiced up on the Oxy. Mike was the shit and the MVP of Phish during their last year. I still have set 2 to see.

Been listening to some amazing Galactic shows that JW gave me. Seattle in 2000 is pretty kick ass along with Whistler, BC in 1999. That's some good driving music.

Grubby arrives in two days. Time to start cleaning up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ten Minute Tuesdays: Burbular Errands

I'm not giving myself ten minutes because I have to force myself to write. I only have ten minutes to write on the Tao of Pauly. I'm just one more article away from finishing up WSOP stuff. It's like the end of the spring semester in college. All your friends are finished with finals and already went home for the summer and you have one more paper to hand in. That's where I'm at. I could have pulled an all nighter last night, but I slept. Nothing serious, but I'm getting a good four or five hours a night now since the WSOP ended late last week. I'm awaiting the Xanax/Valium one/two punch on Thursday when I'll pass out for 16-20 hours and catch up on a ton of rest.

I was up by 8am writing and reading. I'm back to doing my free write for two hours in the mornings. It's like exercise for me. It felt great not to write about poker or Las Vegas. I caught up on an hour of email. I'm still like 1300 pieces of unread and 1000 pieces of unanswered emails behind. It will take me the rest of the month to catch up. I've become a slave to my email.

I made several online purchases including a reserving a room in Atlantic City, getting a rental car for AC, reserving a hotel room for Vegoose, buying Galactic tickets for Boulder, and I bought book on Philip K. Dick that Ryan recommended to me. I also took photos of several items in Grubby's apartment that he wants to sell. I emailed him to put on his Craigslist ads. We're hoping strippers that just moved here would be interested in his bed, exercise bike, or couch.

Change100 was still sleeping by the time I jumped in the car and ran errands at 10am. I detest the burbs, but I enjoy living in the serenity of Henderson, a southeast Las Vegas suburb. I'm on a hill near the Seven Hills or Anthem Hills area. My apartment complex is the base of the mountain and you have to drive up Eastern Avenue to get to my place as the road elevates slowly over a series of 40-50 blocks. I live off Horizon Ridge which is one of the highest points to view the city. And it's a majestic view. At night you can see the Strip lit up and the urban sprawl throughout the Valley. During the days, you can see the mountains and catch a glimpse at Red Rock Canyon.

Everything I need to do is less than a five minute drive, all along Eastern Avenue. Traffic was light so I hit up several places inside of an hour. I got gas for the guzzling PT Cruiser. I bought packing supplies at Target to ship free books and magazines along with t-shirts and hats and other free stuff that I accumulated during the last two months. I went to the post office to ship two boxes of stuff to NYC. I hit up Brooklyn Bagels for an iced tea and garlic bagel with butter. I went to Citibank to get out cash that I borrowed against my poker bankroll. The machine gave me two $50 bills and I went up to the counter to do a cash for cash exchange. I stopped off at Lenscrafters. I'm saving that for an entire rambling post.

Now I have about two minutes left. I want to crank out an hour of writing before my afternoon meeting. I guess when I get home I can finish the article before dinner. I'm itching to play poker and promised myself I won't play in a casino until the article is complete.

Recent Driving Music...
1. Black Keys
2. Galactic
3. Jerry Garcia Band with Merle Saunders
4. James Brown
5. My Morning Jacket

Monday, August 14, 2006


We have a secret

Jen took this photo of Wil and I covering the final table of the World Series of Poker. We were trying to prevent any photographers/cameramen capturing what we were talking about, although I think we were making fun of the smelly guy sitting next to Wil.

By the way, Otis is running a caption contest for this picture. Stop by Up for Poker and participate. I've already read some funny shit and he just started it.